Brussels, 28 October 2019
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First of all, let me thank you all for being here today, at quite a short notice. We are here today to respond to those words that we have heard just now: Venezuelans that are in need and that are calling for the international community to support and to help. We are here today to mobilise and to join forces globally on one of the most dramatic crises of our times.
Latin America and the Caribbean are facing probably the largest displacement of people in the modern history of their region, and it is projected to become the largest migration crisis in the world. Next year, the number of Venezuelans abroad may exceed 6.5 million. It is the largest crisis, but it is also an impressive demonstration of solidarity by Latin Americans for Latin Americans.
Colombia has so far received over 1.5 million people; Peru over 800.000 people; and Ecuador over 300.000 people, only to mention a few. I am sure these are numbers approximated at the lowest and not at the highest possible level. The entire region and all countries within it have opened their doors.
In such a difficult moment – a moment of suffering and of solidarity – the region has decided to join forces through the Quito Process that we all support. We always say that multilateralism holds the answer to the great challenges of our times. And you are demonstrating this in practice in Latin America, with a coordinated regional and multilateral initiative.
We Europeans have also contributed. But this is a moment for us all to do more and to show you that we will not leave you alone in times of need. And to call also on others to join us in this solidarity. We must show that the whole world mobilises when one continent is in need. I believe this is the real root of an effective multilateralism.
This is why we are here. To reaffirm and relaunch solidarity with hosting countries and communities. To support a regional and coordinated response. And to call for greater international cooperation, both technical and financial.
I am pleased to see that so many have answered our call to meet here today and join forces. I want to send a special word of thank you to the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] and the International Organisation for Migration, who have been with us all along the way to make this Conference a reality. Filippo [Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees], Antonio [Vitorino, Director General of the International Organisation for Migration], thank you very much.
When we discussed the idea of this conference - it was supposed to be the last conference in my mandate - we were running to organise it in time. Not because I have any doubt that Josep Borrell, who will take my role in a few weeks would pay less attention to this crisis, but we did not want to lose any moment, days or weeks to mobilise all the resources that we could.
I want to thank you and your teams for the excellent work that we have done together in these weeks to prepare this conference. I also want to thank the countries of the region for their presence here, but also for the support and mobilisation that they have shown together with us for their brothers and sisters.
Filippo [Grandi], Antonio [Vitorino], you said it many times before: this is the most underfunded refugee crisis in the world. The international community is simply not doing enough. And I have the impression that it is not aware enough of the gravity and the urgency of doing more. The UN appeals for 2019 have remained underfunded. The requests for 2020 should not suffer the same fate.
The situation is not getting any better and I think we will hear this from our friends in the region. The needs stemming from this humanitarian emergency continue to outpace the response. The numbers of Venezuelans leaving their homeland continues to grow, and so do the challenges faced by host communities.
Flexible entry policies are an essential lifeline to effectively guarantee the protection of refugees and vulnerable migrants and we need to act to preserve them and make them sustainable. Acts of hatred, intolerance and xenophobia – even if isolated– need to be forcefully rejected.
But we all know well that the best response to this is collective solidarity to show that nobody is left alone in providing the protection that the people who flee from conflict and instability need and deserve.
The European Union has been active since 2016 on this. This is first and foremost because we are close to the people of Venezuela, even if an ocean divides us. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans are also European citizens. We are friends and we are family and we have ties that are deep and profound.
But beyond that, we feel the responsibility to not let anyone down. We feel the responsibility to support solidarity whenever it is put in place. As one of the great global economies, as a global player, and as a friend of Latin America – Europe has been with you from the very beginning and we will continue to be.
Since 2016 we have provided – European institutions and Member States together – more than €320 million in assistance inside Venezuela and in the broader region. And we are ready to continue doing our part in the months and years to come.
Obviously, we all hope that this support will not be needed any longer, because this is a man-made crisis that requires a political solution; a democratic and peaceful solution that needs to come from within Venezuela and that needs to be supported by the region and by the international community.
This is why, at the beginning of this year, in a moment when military confrontation seemed almost inevitable, we created the International Contact Group on Venezuela with partners from Latin America, Europe and the international community. We wanted and we still want first and foremost to stop the escalation, and move towards a dynamic that could lead towards a peaceful and democratic solution to the crisis.
And together, we have achieved some real progress on the political side. Not as much as we would have liked to but not irrelevant.
However, as we continue to work on the political track, Venezuelans who are fleeing their country and communities that are hosting them need our support urgently. Refugees and migrants need humanitarian aid and they need integration within the communities hosting them. And those communities need our support.
This can only be achieved through a collective mobilisation. Governments and businesses; international organisations and civil society; countries from the region and from the whole world. This is the sense of today’s and tomorrow’s conference – we will continue our discussions over this evening and tomorrow.
Today we send an important message: This is the first time that the international community gathers outside of the Americas to show solidarity towards Venezuelans and their host communities. It is the first time, and let me say that it will not be the last.
Today is the beginning of a common path. There will be other conferences and occasions like this in the coming months. The mobilisation will have to be sustained, and I know that the European Union – with my successor Josep Borrell and with all the Member States and the European Union institutions – will continue to be a leading partner in such collective mobilisation. Not only as a donor, not only as a political partner, but also to mobilise others to contribute in a significant manner.
We will continue to stand on your side – financially, technically and politically. You can count on us. I hope you will be able to count on many others as a result of this common work that we are beginning today.
I thank you very much, muchas gracias.
Link to the video: